By Reynard Magtoto
LEGAZPI CITY, 4March2016 (BicolToday.com) — “Don’t vote pro-mining candidates in National and Local Elections! If they win the elections, they will only sell national patrimony to the foreigners,” said militant groups in Bicol yesterday.
Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Mapanirang Pagmimina at Kumbersyong Agraryo (UMALPAS KA) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) – Bicol led regional picket—caravan that marked 21st anniversary of Mining Act of 1995 implementation, campaigning against the destructive mining in the country that brings about irreversible damage especially in Bicol region .
After a brief picket—rally in front of Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) – V, more than 300 Bicolanos from Camarines Sur, Sorsogon and in Albay protested in front of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) – V and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) – V in Rawis, Legazpi City.
All agreed that Mining Act of 1995 as key for the development of mining industry as well as to the national economy is a big lie. According to UMALPAS KA, foreign big corporations already have been exploiting natural resources of the country for 21 years.
Amidst rampant protests on mining, BS Aquino III signed Executive Order (EO) 79 in July 7, 2012 to strengthen Mining Act and “ensure mining industry still follows the interests of neoliberal policies of its political allies and foreign capitalists,” said Dan Balucio of BAYAN-Bicol.
Malacanang prohibits LGUs to make, to pass local resolutions and ordinances that will be against the policies and programs of the national government based on Section 12 of EO 79 relating to the conservation, management, development and proper utilization of the State’s mineral resources specifically the Mining Act of 1995 and its implementing rules and regulations.
Irreversible damages of the current mining act
Mining Act of 1995 declared that it is the responsibility of the State to promote their rational exploration, development, utilization and conservation through the combined efforts of government and the private sector. Contractor has the exclusive right to conduct mining operations and to extract all mineral resources found in the contract area.
To undertake mineral resources development, qualified person must has technical and financial capability and must duly registered with minimum 60% of the capital of which is owned by Filipinos. Provided, that an organized foreign-owned corporation shall be qualified in order to have exploration permit.
Balucio added that the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA), a contract involving financial or technical assistance for large-scale mining, allows 100% foreign ownership of mining companies in the country.
According to EO Section 2, DENR shall ensure that environmental standards in mining shall be strictly enforced proper penalties shall be applied against violators.
“DENR don’t have the capacity to monitor strictly those mining activities because the agency lacks budget at experts that worsen the situation of the community,” Balucio said the agency failed its mandate. “Mining Act of 1995 deprived people, especially in the regions, of access to land and other natural resources that resulted irreversible damage to the community”.
There are mines which are in the process of decommissioning like Rapu-Rapu mining that lacks effective rehabilitation program. He added that skin diseases and other irreversible damage in the municipality of Rapu-Rapu is still visible after Lafayette Philippines, Inc. brought about two mine tailings spills-on October 11 and 31, 2005.
EO 79 also created Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) that served as the Oversight Committee over the operations of Provincial and City Mining Regulatory Boards. And as may direct by the President, MICC can constitute and create Task Force Against Illegal Mining and seek the assistance of the PNP and AFP to ensure strict compliance with relevant laws, rules and regulations.
Special Civilian Armed Auxilliary (SCAA) trained by AFP was also created to serve security guards in mining sites.
“When there is mining, there are militarization and human rights violations,” said Alex Castidades, spokesperson of Alyansa Laban sa Mina sa Matnog (ALMMA). “The government created Investment Defense Force so that AFP and PNP could secure mining operations of big mining corporations”.
Castidades said AFP once again established its military camp near a closed mining site in Balocawe, Matnog and militarization again is evident in Matnog, Sorsogon. “Their presence is a threat and is alarming that operation of large scale mining in the area even there’s no permit yet might reopen,” he said.
Anthony’s Mining Corporation started its operation in 2009 at Balocawe with a small scale mining permit but operated as large scale according to Castidades. “But because of protests, it was closed in 2013,” Castidades added. “We don’t want to happen again the economic sabotage to the communities and the human rights violations”.
Despite the existing RA 7942, mining areas are still among the poorest communities nationwide according to Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC)—Philippines. “It is responsible for human rights violations; many were killed, sued, and harassed for their opposition,” CEC—Philippines added.
Protests and Election campaign
During the picket-caravan, 16 jeeps and two multi-cabs were dressed with protest calls on both sides and tarpaulins of Senatoriable Congressman Neri Colmenares fronted the vehicles. Bayan Muna Representative Colmenares co-authored House Bill 4315 or the People’s Mining Bill, reversing the liberation of the mining industry in RA 7942 or Mining Act of 1995.
Teddy Casino who is now running as 2nd nominee of Bayan Muna Partylist principally authored the bill filed in the 15th Congress on March 2, 2011. The bill seeks to reorient the current policy on ownership, management and governance of metallic and non-metallic minerals, quarry resources, and gemstones towards a rational manner for national industrialization and local government.
Militant groups mentioned some candidates in 2016 elections who are not worthy to vote because they believe they will only sell national patrimony to foreign contractors.
Presidentiable Mar Roxas of Liberal Party is a shareholder of 7 mining corporations such Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co., Manila Mining Corp., Philex Mining Corp., Marinduque Mining and Industrial Corp., Mindanao Mother Lake Mines, Samar Mining Co. and Western Minolco Corp.
While Vice-President Jejomar Binay received campaign funds from mining company last 2010 elections according to reports. And now he is running for president this 2016 elections, Binay’s platform is to give incentives to mining company.
According to Bayan—Bicol, Vice-Presidentiable Gringo Honasan supported the paramilitary groups to secure mining interests of companies. While Bongbong Marcos and Alan Peter Cayetano, also vice—presidentiable, expressed their sentiments in favor of large scale mining industry. Meanwhile former chair of Benguet Corporation, Martin Romualdez, is running for Senatorial sit.
Alternative Minerals Management Bill or the People’s Mining Bill
Progressive groups wanted to past People’s Mining Bill which upholds the Filipino people’s Constitutional right to appropriately use, manage, and enjoy the benefits of the country’s mineral resources considering these as national patrimony and irreplaceable and non-renewable wealth.
If DENR has the exclusive rights to decide in large-scale mining under RA 7642, the decision—making process in HB 4315 is expanded to the affected community, stakeholders and LGUs through the creation of Multi—sectoral Mineral Councils (MSMCs). MSMCs will be created in all demarcated areas.
All quarrying permits shall require the recommendation of MSMC prior to the final approval government unit. It allows only mining permits which Filipinos can derive the most benefit from and which will support the strategic and prudent extraction of minerals needed for industrialization. In terms of large—scale mining, it scraps the controversial Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAA) and Exploration permits (EPs). [BicolToday.com]